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Impostor syndrome is the internal psychological experience of feeling like a phony in some area of your life, despite any success that you have achieved in that area. According to a recent KPMG study, seventy-five percent of executive women report having personally experienced imposter syndrome at certain points in their career. These feelings of inadequacy, self-doubt, and feeling like a fraud are even more pronounced in the creative industry, where artists frequently suffer dry spells, moments where inspiration seems as elusive as the wind. This is the plight of the main character in Adeniyi Joseph Omobulejo’s Kill the Impostor, a 15-minute short that doesn’t pull its punches and earns every second of its runtime. I had nothing but applause for it by the time the credits rolled.
Salama (Susan Echa) is a writer at a creative impasse. In the first scene, she is listening to a podcast where the host says, “…generating ideas as a creative person can be very nerve-wracking.” On the table, written in bold lettering across the front page of a newspaper, is a headline that’s bound to make her even more nervous: “Four Years Gone, Critically Acclaimed Writer May Never Write Another Hit.”
Before this scene ends, Salama gets a call, and just as she answers it, we transition to another one where Salama, sitting in a chair, addresses the audience directly, acting as a narrator. The choice to not only accompany the voice of the narrator with a visual, but also separate this scene, color-wise, from the rest of the film, works beautifully. This way the audience is more immersed in Salama’s story, and the twist is more impactful when it comes.
The story continues and we learn that Salama is apparently married to Ezeonu (Patrick Diabuah), and the call she just received is from his sister, Odili (Goodness Akpos), who has been informed about a private matter (Salama and Eze are choosing to have a girl child through IVF after about three years of trying by themselves) and has a lot to say about it.
Before Odili hangs up on Salama, she says, with enough venom in her voice to bring down a rhino, “Ezeonu must have a male child…his first issue must be a male child.” What follows is a sequence where Salama, through her narration, guides the audience through her current emotional state as well as a couple of flashbacks informing us about the private matter in question. Susan Echa gets a good opportunity to really shine here as her expressive delivery combined with her stoic, more restrained facial expressions work together to pull the audience into the character’s headspace.
Eze gets home and Salama confronts him about the matter. She accuses him of breaking his promise to not make their personal matters an extended family affair. He defends himself. Omobulejo (who also serves as writer and editor) opts for handheld camera work here, contrasting slightly with the more static, locked down approach used in the rest of the film, and highlighting the disconnect between the characters. The score, too, which swells and tapers off at the right times helps to infuse the scene with energy.
As I mentioned earlier, the film contains a twist, and it’s the kind that, even when telegraphed beforehand, does not affect your experience. Still, I should refrain from giving it away. Salama gets a call from her agent who asks how far she’s gone with the book. After about a minute of consideration and self-doubt, she deletes the entire thing.
In the tradition of writers who, when faced with a block or a bout of anxiety and doubt their work and talent, decide to write about that particular situation, Adeniyi Joseph Omobulejo has written a movie to give us some insight into his own struggles, while also sending a message to other artists out there that they are not alone.
The film ends with a message for all creatives: “DON’T LOSE TO THE IMPOSTOR.”
I’ll end with one of my own. In what seems like adding yet another level of self-awareness to this situation, I wrote this review while pushing through a dry spell. Every paragraph felt like pulling teeth, and yet writing reviews is one of my favorite things to do in the world. So, no, don’t lose to the Impostor. Or like Dylan Thomas would say, do not go gentle into that good night.